Waves – Marketing Recap

A family chafes under the weight of its bonds in the new movie from the writer/director of It Comes at Night.

waves poster

Sterling K. Brown stars as Ronald in Waves, the new movie from writer/director Trey Edward Shults. Ronald is a loving father to Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell), a man who is holding his family together through sheer force of will. In the wake of a powerful and emotional loss, Ronald’s domineering style seems more harsh as his grown children seek to spread out and lead their own lives.

The story is one of heartache, love and drama and those themes have come through in A24’s marketing campaign.

The Posters

Tyler and his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) are shown on the poster (by marketing agency InSync Plus) embracing on a park bench. It looks at first as if they’re sitting on the beach with the Florida coast in front of them until you realize ocean waves are lapping on both sides of the bench, including that closest to the camera. That they are in the middle of the churning ocean is a much different message than it would be otherwise, one that hints at the kind of emotional turmoil the story contains.

The Trailers

The first trailer (549,000 views on YouTube) released in September just as the movie was generating headlines from festival appearances, is focused on Ronald. The other characters around him are all influenced by his actions, the lessons he shares, the decisions he makes and the way he lives his life. That influence is sometimes for good and sometimes not, as we’re shown an incredibly intense emotional drama about how we live our lives and relate to other people.

How strongly Ronald is trying to push and hold together his family is the focus of the second trailer, released in late October. Roughly the same message is conveyed as the first one, but the shorter running time here consolidates the pitch while quotes from reviews praising the movie are featured on-screen.

Online and Social

Just the very basics – the trailer, poster and synopsis – on the studio’s page for the movie.

Advertising and Promotions

A24 planned to bring the movie to the Toronto Film Festival. Shortly before that happened the studio scheduled the early November release date. It was later added to the docket of the Telluride Film Festival, securing its status as a likely awards nominee.

There doesn’t seem to have been much more in the way of active marketing since then.

Media and Press

While in Toronto the cast spoke about how the story deals with the dynamics of black families and how they bonded on the set during production.

Brown and the rest of the cast and crew spoke about how unique and special they felt the film and its story were at the Atlanta premiere. Most of the cast was featured in a joint profile where they talked about making the movie and what it meant to them. Meanwhile Brown was interviewed about his character and how it differs from other recent roles. He also appeared recently on “Kimmel” to promote the movie.

Shults and the rest of the cast talked about the themes of the movie and what motivations they brought to their characters.


Of all the movies that seem to have received an undeserved short shrift recently, this one really stands out. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as critics praise all the performances and other reactions have been upbeat as well. So where is the more full-throated marketing support? It’s surprising to not even see more being done on the promotional front, something A24 is well known for. Instead the studio still seems to be paying most of its attention to The Lighthouse.

While Brown in particular was out there doing a number of interviews and appearances, too often this movie was given secondary billing to Frozen 2, in which he also stars. The proximity of those two releases may be working against him being even more involved here, contributing to a campaign that is heavy emotionally even if there isn’t a lot of heft to it.

Picking Up the Spare

A new joint interview with Harrison Jr. and Russell, who play one of the story’s key pairings. And Shults was giving another feature profile here while Brown got another profile as well. Brown made an appearance on “Late Night.”

There were a handful of additional profiles of Brown that allowed him to discuss his role and how it reflects the state of black masculinity.

How the filmmakers secured the rights to songs by Kanye West and others was the subject of this feature.

Cinematographer Drew Daniels discussed his work creating the visual style of the film here. There was also another interview with Harrison Jr. about his experience.

Hotel Artemis – Marketing Recap

hotel artemis posterJodie Foster is here to tell us the rules in Hotel Artemis, written and directed by Drew Pearce. Foster plays Jean Thomas, the nurse at an establishment that acts as a safe spot and hospital for the criminal underworld. She’s assisted there by Everest (Dave Bautista) and operates successfully because everyone who comes there understands the rules, including that there’s no violence on the property.

That rule winds up being broken when a series of events brings a strange group of people together on a single night. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) is on the run and in need of help after pulling a job. But he’s attracted some unwanted attention from a crime lord named The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), who is out to recover what’s been taken from him. Also there that night are bad guys played by Sofia Boutella, Charlie Day and more, all with their own agendas and desire for survival.

The Posters

The teaser poster doesn’t include any mentions of the high-caliber cast or the story, just showing the hotel’s logo and name. Not much and not hugely effective unless you know what the movie is about already and have other information to support it and add context to it.

The second poster uses that same logo but shows all the shady characters that will pass through the hotel in the frame of the door. The orange, fire-like tone everything has hints that there will be more than a little chaos caused by all these folks and their actions.

The Trailers

The first half of the trailer is devoted to introducing us to the world the story takes place in. On a broad level that means the violent hellscape that is LA in 2028 (insert “so I see things haven’t changed” joke) and the hotel itself, which has specific rules to protect the staff and those who seek sanctuary there. The second half is about how, as we see early on, Waikiki has stolen something valuable from a very powerful man who wants his property back. That theft, while unintentional, has consequences for Waikiki and the hotel in general as everyone looks to make it through the night.

Well that looks like a lot of fun. It’s wacky and violent and over-the-top but also completely committed, at least based on what’s seen here, to the premise. With such a great cast that’s been brought together this has to be at least kind of good.

A red-band trailer later on hit the same basic chords but presented things a bit differently, mixing up some of the character introductions, overview of the rules of the hotel and more. Missing is much of the exposition about why all these criminals have converged in one place on one night and in its place is lot of cursing and glorified violence.

One last “Character” trailer took the approach of trying to look like a 70s grindhouse type flick, with grainy footage and voiceover that introduced all the various criminals and their associates that keep the story going. It’s alright, but not as clever as it thinks it is.

Online and Social

There were Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie but no official owned site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A TV spot focused mostly on setting up the hotel and its rules as well as its all-star cast, showing the movie as a grungy and violent story with a wicked sense of gallows humor. Another delved more into the story and the rules of the hotel as well as how those rules get broken. This one was just about presenting a kinetic and violent good time with a catchy rhythm. A special TV spot featuring Bautista ran during “Sports Center.” There were also online ads that used elements of the key art as well as video snippets, which also showed up in social ads.

Media and Publicity

Brown showed up on the late night TV circuit, engaging in hijinks and promoting this movie as well as talking about that show he’s on and some of his other recent movies. Foster did the same to talk about the movie’s story and lots more. Other members of the cast did other publicity stops on various media.


There’s quite a bit to like about the campaign. It sometimes goes a little far in trying to sell the style over the substance, but it’s hardly the first marketing push to do so. There’s certainly a consistency to the brand here as everything is bathed in that orange brown light, like street lights filtered through window that hasn’t been cleaned in far too long.

Foster is, of course, the central focus here even if she isn’t the central focus. What I mean by that is that the marketing spread the attention around to Brown, Bautista, Goldblum, Boutella and others, but it all revolves around Foster’s nurse, both because she’s a central figure and because Foster is just such a presence. The campaign presents a lot of reasons to see the movie – it’s violent and darkly funny among them, but Foster disappearing behind an accent and glasses might be chief among them.


Brian Tyree Henry has done a bit more press now that the movie is in theaters, including “The Daily Show.”
Writer/director Drew Pearce also has talked with Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter and more about what kind of movie he set out to make and how he created something fairly unique.  

Marshall – Marketing Recap

We love origin stories for our icons. That’s true not only for superheroes but for the real people who have influenced our world. This week brings another sort of origin story in the new release Marshall. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in one story pulled from the years before he became the first black United States Supreme Court justice.

The story follows one particular case from early in his career. In Connecticut, a black man (Sterling K. Brown) has been charged with the rape of the woman he drove for (Kate Hudson). Marshall is called to help defend the accused, but because of segregation laws at the time he enlists the help of a local Jewish lawyer (Josh Gad). Together they work to overcome the biases in the town that threaten to convict based more on race than on the evidence of the case.

The Posters

The first poster is simple, showing a black and white image of Boseman as Marshall, standing there in a suit and hat and clutching his briefcase. The red of the title treatment provides a bit of contrast to that photo. “Live hard. Fight harder” is the copy, which tells us that we’re in for a bit of scrapping of some form in the story.

“His weapon was the truth” is the copy on the second poster, which uses the photo collage design concept to share as much about the movie as possible in a single image. Boseman, Gad, Brown and Hudson are all shown here in individual photos along with other pictures of scenes that are important to the story. It’s fine, but it’s an approach that’s been used dozens of times in the past and conveys little that’s unique or compelling about the movie.

The Trailers

The first trailer sets out by immediately establishing Marshall as kind of a badass as he gets into a bar fight. Then we hear about how far he’s come from his grandfather’s position as a slave, but he faces prejudice and anger from all quarters. He’s assigned a case where a black man was charged with assaulting a white woman, which has exposed the racial ugliness of the period. When he brings on a Jewish partner for the case things only get worse but Marshall is no less determined to fight for justice and break down all the barriers society has put in place, ending with a shot of him drinking from a “Whites Only” water fountain.

It’s a powerful trailer, to be sure, but the audience’s expectation is likely that this is more of a biopic about America’s first black Supreme Court justice. It’s not that at all, though. Instead we get a clear cut procedural story that wouldn’t be out of place on “Law & Order” or in a John Grisham novel, though with Marshall in the spotlight. That’s different from what might be expected, taking an awfully narrow slice of his life instead of trying to track it on a larger scale. Not saying it isn’t still compelling, just unexpected.

The second trailer starts out much the same way as the first, showing us the hard life Marshall led before his appointment to the Supreme Court. We see again how he’s assigned a controversial case with great racial implications.

Online and Social

Full-screen video pulled from the trailers plays on the front page of the official website, obscured by the title, pull quotes from early reviews and a prompt to watch the trailer. There are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well as call-outs for both the #MarshallMovie hashtag for conversations about the movie and #StandUpForSomething for more general activism. It’s also the name of an original song on the movie’s soundtrack.

“About” has a Synopsis and Cast and Crew information for you to peruse. After that is a section on the soundtrack, with a link to buy or stream the album. “Videos” has the trailers and other promotional videos, including all the introductions from the cast. “Photos” has a decent gallery of stills.

Persistent on the site is a call to action for “Group Sales.” The studio obvious want to encourage people to go see the movie en masse, a common tactic with issues-based films like this.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Boseman himself introduces Marshall as a forerunner to other civil rights heroes in a TV spot that has the whole primary cast encouraging the audience to not only see the movie but stand up and fight for equality, calling out racism and other problems when they see it. Further TV commercials would range from those that used short, emotional appeals based on the praise the movie has already received to those that used the second collage-based poster as a starting point to dive into the characters played by each member of the cast.

Using either of the hashtags mentioned above unlocks a sponsored emoji on Twitter, a symbol of the balanced scales of justice. The trailers and other videos were also used as sponsored posts on both Twitter and Facebook.

Media and Publicity

Boseman also showed up on “Kimmel” right around the time of the debut of the first trailer to help promote it along with Black Panther.

Later in EW’s fall movie preview Boseman talked about how yes, this was another historical figure he was portraying, but that he was drawn to characters of significance.

Boseman showed up again on “Kimmel” closer to release and he and the other cast did various other interviews and appearances. Both he and Brown did this joint interview where they talked about the representation of black people on film and how, while there’s still room for improvement, things are better than they once were. Ethnicity also came up in an interview with Gad, where he talked about how taking on such an overtly-Jewish role was a decision made in part to honor his Holocaust-surviving grandparents.

Hudson was the subject of a feature profile where he talked about his career as well as why he got involved in making this movie and how the story, because it’s a less well-known part of Marshall’s career, makes it a perfect one to surprise audiences with.

Perusing the social profiles for the movie, it seems Open Road organized plenty of screenings and Q&A sessions around the country to help get people excited for the movie and position it as an important one for people to see and spread the word regarding.


Context matters. I mentioned above that my initial reaction to the first trailer was a bit underwhelming because it came off like a preview for the latest episode of a TV police procedural. It was only after reading the interview with Hudlin that I realized the dramatic implications of framing a relatively unknown part of Marshall’s life and selling it like this. The whole point is to sell it in a familiar way because it will be more appealing to the audience and provide the most impact when they do see it.

More than that, I think the best thing the campaign does is get the actors involved in selling it directly. Specifically I’m referencing the trailer introductions and other videos from Boseman, Brown and Gad. In a cultural era where athletes, actors and others are asked to take a side on any number of issues, these three are putting their money where their mouth is, not only selling the move but the racial equality Marshall – and others – sought in all things. They are loudly declaring that not only are they proud of the movie, they’re proud of its message. That’s a powerful appeal.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.